Best Multiplayer Award 2014: Towerfall Ascension

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Check out our game of the year awards 2014 page to find out how the awards were decided.

Tyler Wilde: I remember when I learned about dashing. I was at a party with ten-or-so people gathered around the TV, all paying far more attention to four little sprites hopping around than ought to be expected of a group of inebriated partygoers. It’s all in that dash. Towerfall’s primary weapons are homing arrows, and sometimes they’re unavoidable, but if you dash into an arrow, you can snatch it from the air. When only two players in the simple, exceptionallydesigned deathmatch remain on the screen, that little dash becomes as exciting as a clutch Super in Ultra Street Fighter IV. We traded a single arrow back and forth again and again, the crowd oohing each time it was dash-grabbed – quietly, like it was a tennis rally. Then there’s an unexpected play: a decoy arrow followed by a series of hops to land on the losers’ head ala Mario. And then we’re all hollering.

Towerfall is partly awarded best multiplayer to celebrate a trend this year. Counter-Strike: GO stayed strong, but no new multiplayer shooter really stuck with us. CoD: Advanced Warfare was better than Ghosts, but not all that different. Titanfall was good fun, but not that many people are playing it now. This really wasn’t a great year for online multiplayer shooters, but it was a great year to get away from your desk for a bit and share a screen with friends, and Towerfall is absolutely the best thing you can share with them. The only game that comes close—and it is close—is Nidhogg.

Chris Thursten: I’d say that Samurai Gunn was a contender too. We really have been through a renaissance in single screen multiplayer this year, perfectly timed to coincide with the (eventual) rise of the Steam Machine and living-room PCs.

Towerfall stands out above the others for me because it’s the most comprehensive offering. In addition to the arena deathmatch mode, which could sustain a game by itself, there’s a campaign that serves as both a challenging singleplayer shooter and a co-op wave survival sim. Multiple difficulty levels reward investment and mastery, and then you can take all of those skills and use them to beat up your friends next time you have people around. Nidhogg is a fantastic game but it can sometimes feel like a proof-ofconcept: it’s lean to the point of perfection, but perhaps also lean to the point of paucity. Towerfall feels like a full game, in the old-school sense: generous, expandable, with secrets to discover.

It’s also very good at drawing your eye to the action, which is an important trick for a game of this type. Watching an arrow barely miss its mark is a buzz that doesn’t get old, and one that increases exponentially with the crowd you’re able to gather around the screen. I’d say that Titanfall’s titan drop moment was the single coolest ‘moment’ in a multiplayer game this year, but to a great extent it’s a canned thrill: it’s something you get used to, while in Towerfall every jump, dash and shot has the potential to feel like the greatest play you’ve ever made.

We should probably stress that this is a game that will make you hate all of your friends—at least for a while. For me, that’s the hallmark of truly great multiplayer.

Read our full verdict in the PC Gamer Towerfall Ascension review.

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